Elderly Warned Over Winter Deaths

A hard-hitting campaign has been launched to stop pensioners being killed by cold weather this winter. Charity Help the Aged has joined forces with Scottish Gas in the winter deaths campaign to highlight the dangers faced by the elderly. Since 2000 more than 15,500 older Scots have died from cold-related illnesses. Douglas Macnaughtan, acting director of Help the Aged in Scotland, said: “Deaths in winter are large in number and to a large extent avoidable.”

The charity said that last winter alone more than 2,500 people over the age of 65 died as a result of winter-related illnesses, with many more suffering the effects of the cold.

The Help the Aged and Scottish Gas Partnership aims to raise awareness of the issue and force urgent action to tackle the problem.

Mr Macnaughtan added: “It is a tragedy that the number of unnecessary winter deaths in Scotland consistently remains higher than in comparable European countries.

“Although the message about the magnitude of the problem may have got through it is still not receiving the attention it deserves.

“The fact is that despite the executive’s best efforts, more older people died in the winter of 2004/5 than during the previous one and this trend demands urgent action from ministers.”

The campaigners have compiled a table of the causes of death in over-65s. They said winter deaths came fifth, with about double the number of deaths from chronic liver disease or breast cancer.

Over the coming months the campaign aims to ensure that older people have information about how to prepare for the winter and beat the cold. It also hopes to challenge all energy providers and the government to ensure existing help is better targeted.

A top ten tips guide on how to beat the cold can be found on the Help the Aged website. Information will also be distributed to older people through a number of channels including meals on wheels and local health boards.

Before the cold months arrive, the partnership is encouraging elderly people to check that heating systems and boilers are working correctly. They are also urging pensioners to make sure they claim their full benefit entitlement.

The SNP’s social justice spokeswoman Christine Grahame MSP called on the government to double the Winter Fuel Allowance.

“Sweden and Germany, despite having more severe winters, have a lower winter mortality rate than Scotland,” she said.

For more advice on staying warm this winter call the Energy Retail Association on 0800 336699 or Seniorline on 0808 8006565 (0800 269626 if using a text phone)

The Winter Fuel Allowance helpline number is 0845 9151515.